Members of the youth group at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church are warm after spending more than 12 hours out in the cold to raise awareness of homelessness in our community.

Spray painted boxes and sleeping bags are set up as a pretend homeless community in front of the Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church. For youth members, this was more than their typical sleep over. “I made a tight box and put a sleeping bag in it and my friend Taylor closed the lid up and just kept me warm,” said Taylor, a teen in the youth group.

They spent the night raising awareness about the homelessness in Bradley County. This church is one of the few which opens their doors during the cold months to neighbors in need so no one lives in fear of freezing to death. “When it gets 30 degrees or below we invite people in and give them food, give them a place to sleep until the next morning,” said Sam.

Sleeping outside Friday night in 30 degree temperatures was a learning experience for these teens. It makes you realized how God blessed us with homes and how homeless people feel,” said teen Taylor Collins.

Each teen was assigned a different persona to represent throughout the night-- really making them live the homeless lifestyle. “They got to walk in their shoes for a few hours just to see what it felt like. They had to think though what their next steps would be if they were homeless,” said the Youth Minister Leah Walker.

Youth minister, Leah Walker understands the teens will likely never know the everyday struggles of being homeless but she does hope they learned to treat them with respect and lend a helping hand whenever they can. “Really brave most stayed out all night. I would periodically knock on their boxes and say are you alive, are you okay? They would respond by saying I am fine, I can do it.”

All the proceeds will go to benefit the church’s "Cold Weather Shelter."  The funds raised from the event will go to buy supplies, food, and other items needed to run the shelter during the winter months. To donate to the shelter click here